Ford’s internal project to resurrect the Bronco nameplate is running at full steam and is projected to yield one of the automaker’s most popular models upon launch. To the public, even today, there is precious little to point to as a harbinger of its return.
What you see here is the Bronco R race prototype, a vehicle that’s been designed to be most adept at storming through barren deserts and all other manner of harsh terrain as quickly as possible. And while the timing and sandy Mojave locale of its debut might suggest an appearance at the SEMA show ongoing in Las Vegas, it’s actually coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Baja 1000 overall win by Rod Hall in a first-generation Bronco.
The underlying structure might be all custom engineered with purposes specific to endurance rallying, but the shape Ford Performance laid atop it is our first real glimpse at what the production Bronco might look like. Considering the volume of hype about the all-new 4x4, this reveal is most definitely a big deal.
Add to that the fact that the Bronco R is fully Baja-ready and seen here doing exactly what gets desert off-roading enthusiasts frothing at the mouth is pure marketing genius.
“Bronco’s win at Baja in 1969 was epic, something that even after 50 years has not been repeated. Rugged endurance racing is such a big part of Bronco heritage. The Baja 1000 gives us not only the perfect setting to honour Rod Hall’s win, it also provides an authentic test bed to demonstrate our upcoming Bronco’s desert racing capability and durability.” - Hau Thai-Tang, Ford chief product development and purchasing officer.
Besides being photogenic enough to make dune jumping shots reach their fullest levels of epic, Ford has clearly stuffed plenty real-world expertise into this prototype, the name itself denoting its status as Ford’s future Baja 1000 factory entrant. It makes perfect sense, then, that Geiser Bros Design & Development as well as Trophy Truck champion Cameron Steele were embedded deep into the creation and fine tuning of the Bronco R.
With the vehicle itself making its debut and the torch passed (so to speak) to Shelby Hall, Rod’s granddaughter who will be one of the drivers piloting the finished Bronco R for the upcoming Baja 1000, the 6th-gen Bronco is certainly picking up brownie points for paying appropriate respects to its heritage and the accomplishments that made the original Bronco so memorable.
The body itself is exaggeratedly wide and perhaps a little too low proportionate to its ground clearance, but the design DNA of Broncos past is well and truly visible. That said, it's built on a modified version of Ford's T6 architecture, the same that underpins the current Ranger and utilises an EcoBoost petrol motor with twin-turbochargers, both of which are confirmed to be reflective of what we can expect from the next production Bronco.
If we were to hazard another guess, we’d also expect some permutation of EcoBlue turbodiesel engines at the heart of the showroom model, especially if they intend to offer it outside North America. To prove the hardiness and fortitude of its architecture and powertrain, Ford Performance has devised its own 1,000 mile off-road course for the Bronco R to tackle later in November ahead of the iconic race.